Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.
Debt charities have seen a huge spike in people seeking help over the past year. Free debt advice is in high demand as more people face financial difficulties due to the cost of living crisis and energy costs.
So, when should you seek debt advice? And where can you find it?
We all have the odd month where we’re a little short of cash. Last-minute or unexpected expenses crop up and take our spare cash. Things like insurance premiums, broken boilers, or car repairs all add up very quickly – even if you’ve budgeted for them.
However, if you have more than a couple of months where you feel stressed before payday and you’re losing sleep, it’s time to seek debt advice.
More people than ever seek free debt advice in their local communities or online right now, as the cost of living crisis puts a lasting impact on everyone’s finances. Soaring prices, energy costs and inflation all mean many of us are scrimping like never before.
There’s no shame in debt. Approaching a debt advice charity or group means you’ll be working with trained advisors who see the impact of debt on a daily basis. They understand debt isn’t usually because you’ve gone on mad spending sprees – just that life costs more than you’ve earned.
Lots of people don’t have any savings buffer to rely upon when times are tough. One in ten British adults has no savings at all, while a third have less than £600. We’re supposed to save around 6 months’ worth of expenses to cover all eventualities – but in reality, it’s just not possible for many.
Even if you’re struggling with debt now, having a savings account is a good idea – even if you use a savings app that simply ‘sweeps’ the rounded-up pennies from your day-to-day spending into a savings pot.
If you’re worried about debt – no matter how big or small the amount owed – contact someone for help. There are several debt advice charities that will help you for free:
StepChange offer a web chat service or you can call them on 0800 138 111 8am-8pm Monday to Friday, 8am – 4pm on Saturdays.
National Debtline has a personal and a business debtline – so if you’re self-employed and struggling, they’ll be able to help. Use their web chat services or call 0808 808 4000 between 9am – 8pm Monday to Friday, 9:30am – 1:00pm on Saturdays.
Community Money Advice runs local centres with free debt advice, assistance with managing your creditors, and financial education to put debt into your past for good. Find your nearest centre here and you can read more about the CMA here.
Not every town or village has a free debt advice office – yet. However, if you think you – and lots in your area – need help, appeal to your local community for assistance.
Ask churches, community groups, or your local food bank to set up a Community Money Advice centre. Volunteers will receive training on debt advice and be able to help the people in their local community, too. With different types of set up available (face-to-face centres and telephone options), there’s something for every community.
You can also help other people by taking their budget coach training sessions, so you can teach others about managing their money to help avoid future debt.
Citizens Advice are experts at providing reliable information for people in need. You can phone their dedicated debt helpline: 0800 240 4420 which is open Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm or find your nearest centre here.
Many local councils have debt advice help – though it could be limited. However, if you’re struggling with your bills, it’s worth contacting your local council – they could help you access extra funding or discounts on your Council Tax bill to help reduce your financial stress.
The short answer here is: no! Never!
There is enough free advice available through debt charities that you shouldn’t ever have to pay for help. You’ll often find unscrupulous companies sitting at the top of your ‘debt relief’ Google searches – but they’ll tell you that you have to pay a fee.
You don’t have to pay any fee to the debt charities listed above – and they’ll help you in the same way as any ‘paid’ provider will. In fact, you’re going to get a better service from the charities – because you know they’re doing it to really help you, and not to gain profit!